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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Essence of Rosh Hashana

Discourse on Rosh Hashana

Blowing of the Shofar, Lulav, and Megillah on Shabbat. Halachic Reasoning. Conceptual Reasoning. The Sacrifice: The Difficult Test. Why spread out the many reasons. The force of repentance with the Torah.
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1. Blowing of the Shofar, Lulav, and Megillah on Shabbat.
2. Halachic Reasoning.
3. Conceptual Reasoning.
4. The Sacrifice: The Difficult Test.
5. Why spread out the many reasons.
6. The force of repentance with the Torah.

Blowing of the Shofar, Lulav, and Megillah on Shabbat
The prohibition of reading Megillat Esther when Purim falls on Shabbat is explained by Rabba in the Gemmarah in Megillah. Rabba states that those who are not learned in the Megillah reading may be likely to bring the Megillah to one who is an expert, and thus may transgress the prohibition of carrying on Shabbat. The same applies to blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah and carrying the lulav on the first day of Sukkot when those days fall on Shabbat. Even though these are all mitzvahs from the Torah, they are delayed by one day in order not to desecrate the Shabbat.

Tosofot raises the question about the mitzvah of brit mila that takes place on Shabbat. Why is this mitzvah not postponed one day as are the others? Maybe the mohel will carry the knife or another instrument needed for the circumcision on Shabbat. Tosofot gives two answers to these questions. 1) The mitzvah of brit mila is of such a stringent nature that it is mentioned at least 13 times in the Torah. 2) The person that performs the circumcision is an expert and therefore will not need to learn from someone else or carry in the public domain on Shabbat.

The Gemmarah in Sukkot mentions another reason why we do not perform the mitzvah of the lulav on Shabbat. Outside of the land of Israel it was not clear when the new months began and therefore the holiday's need to be celebrated for two days instead of one in order to avoid complications. If the first day falls on Shabbat it may or may not be the actual holiday (15th of Tishrei). As a result, chazal saw fit to make the lulav muktza on Shabbat outside of the land of Israel. This rule was then also applied in the land of Israel. Although not blowing the shofar or reading the Megillah on Shabbat falls into this same idea one may question why this reason was only mentioned in the Gemmarah of Sukkot and not in the other Gemmaras?

There is an additional question that arises from this explanation in the Gemmarah in Sukkot. The holidays Sukkot, Purim, and Rosh Hashanah are dependent upon the declaration of the new month to determine when the holiday will be celebrated and thus if there is a mistake there may be a desecration of the Shabbat. This is not the case with brit mila which occurs on the eighth day regardless of whether it falls on Shabbat or not. Hence given this intrinsic difference why did the Tosofot want to examine this decree also in regards to brit mila?

Halachic Reasoning
The basic halachic reasoning for this matter is that perhaps we have made a mistake in the date of the holiday and therefore we are needlessly desecrating the Shabbat. Once it has been established that a desecration of the Shabbat exists, the second reason defines the type of desecration- carrying four steps in the public domain. Thus we need both reasons to establish the prohibition.

Conceptual Reasoning
A more conceptual reasoning involves the shofar which helps awaken one to do good deeds and reminds us of the binding (Akida) of Yitzhak and his willingness to be sacrificed. The Akida teaches us that we should be dedicated to learning Torah and fulfilling mitzvahs. We need to bind and connect ourselves to higher spiritual goals, and not be slaves to physical desires. We should really be slaves to Hashem. On the verse "The Aramean sought to destroy my father" the Or Chaim explains that the leader of the swindlers and the liars is the evil inclination (yetzer harah) which uses its many different guises to entrap man and cause him to sin.

The Sacrifice: The Difficult Test
When Avraham Avinu went to bind and sacrifice his son Yitzhak the Satan met him and inquired as to where he was going. Avraham answered "Hashem commanded me to sacrifice my son Yitzhak". The Satan asked "Do you really believe that Hashem said that you should bind and slaughter a Jew? That is not like Hashem, it is rather your evil inclination that has taken over your thoughts. Avraham answered "I can differentiate between the words of Hashem and words of Satan. The Satan then asked Yitzhak "Where are you going?" Yitzhak answered "To be sacrificed." Satan responded "But it is forbidden to murder and besides no rabbi would permit you to be killed just as he would not permit you to desecrate the Sabbath." Yitzhak answered "I rely on my father Avraham who is exceptional, and besides in times of extenuating circumstances this is permissible."

Avraham built the altar by himself, without the help of Yitzhak. He feared that if Yitzhak would lift stones the Yezter Harah would cause one of them to fall and injure him rendering him unfit to be offered as a sacrifice. Thus Avraham ordered Yitzhak to hide. Hashem at this point proclaimed the greatness of Avraham. "Now it is known that you are a man who reveres and fears Hashem". Was the act of jumping into the burning oven not worthy of being known as a man who reveres and fears Hashem? The answer is that now Avraham can differentiate between the words of Hashem and the mere tests of the Satan.

The midrash continues with the description of how the Satan continued harassing Avraham. After Avraham was told not to sacrifice his son the Satan then called out for him to yes go on with the sacrifice! When Avraham found the ram in the bushes the Satan tried to dissuade him from bringing the ram forth by reminding Avraham that it was a holiday and therefore forbidden to pull off branches.

On the verse "And Avaraham lifted up his eyes, and looked and behold behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns" Bereshit (22,13), chazal comment that Hashem is warning Am Israel not to get involved in sins. If by chance they are entangled by their horns in their transgressions then they should take the horn of the ram (shofar) and blow on it. The shofar will shock them into action and will awaken them to repent their sins.

Why Spread Out the Reasons?
The reading of the Megillah on Purim is to publicize the miracle of Purim. Am Israel was a nation that was alone and scattered far from mitzvahs. "There is one nation" and it was disconnected from the mitzvahs so Hashem made a miracle. "For the Jews there was light." The light is the Torah and Am Israel happily accepted the Torah. "In the days of Achashverosh the generation accepted it." Perhaps the reason for not carrying four steps in the public domain on Shabbat is due to the exactness involved in keeping Torah and mitzvahs. The shofar and Megilla are specifically included in this ruling because they represent the complete willingness to accept the Torah (Megilah), and full devotion to learning Torah and doing mitzvahs (shofar).

The lulav, however, represents the unification of Am Yisrael. The Etrog, with its good smell and taste symbolizes those who fill their lives with Torah and mitzvahs. The aravah symbolizes the evil of those who have neither Torah nor mitzvahs in their lives. The mitzvah and blessing of the lulav gathers and unifies the nation from all the corners of the world. It is, therefore, decreed that if one is prohibited to carry the lulav on Shabbat outside of the land of Israel then the same is true for those living within the land of Israel. No one of us is better than the other for we are all joined together as part of one nation.

The Force of Repentance with the Torah
We have seen that the shofar represents the sacrifices one makes and devotion one has to Torah and keeping the mitzvahs. We need to realize the value of the mitzvah of learning Torah. When one learns Gemmarah or any other facet of the Torah every word that is uttered is a mitzvah from the Torah itself. How great is the reward for learning Torah, and even more so when one sacrifices for the sake of Torah.

The Gemmarah delineates four types of atonement: 1) One who transgresses a positive mitzvah, repents and is immediately forgiven. 2) One who transgresses a negative mitzvah and repents on Yom Kippur. 3) One who sins and is sentenced to death by a court of law and repenting, Yom Kippur, and afflictions atone for his sins. 4) One who sins and causes a desecration of Hashem's Name and only his death will atone him. The need for affliction or death in order to atone seems to contradict the rule that nothing stands in the way of tschuva. The HaRif Pinto commented on the Ayin Yaakov that the tschuva consisting of affliction and death is a tschuva made out of fear. However, when tschuva is made out of love these actions are not necessary. Rabbeinu Yona explains the contradiction in a different manner. Hardships and death are only part of a simplistic tschuva, not a tschuva that is accompanied by Torah. Tschuva joined by Torah is a great force. This is why we pray "Our Father bring us back to the Torah, and our King draw us closer to your deeds, and return us to a complete tschuva before You". How does one arrive at this complete tschuva? By learning Torah and by performing mitzvahs, such as the mitzvah of settling in the land of Israel . "One who walks four steps in Israel his sins are forgiven." Also such as the mitvah of keeping Shabbat. "One that keeps Shabbat -even those who had worshipped idols as did the generation of Enosh- he is forgiven." There is no tschuva greater than the tschuva that consists of the combined forces of Torah and mitvahs and is accompanied by sacrifice and devotion. With this tschuva all ones sins become merits.

During this time period we offer to Hashem more Torah, more mitzvahs, and more good deeds. Each one of us needs to concentrate on increasing our learning of Torah and our dedication to the Torah and mitzvahs.

Let it be Hashem's will that we merit sacrificing these offerings in the Beit Mikdash.
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